SF Review of Books on “Compassion, Michigan” by Raymond Luczak

cover of Compassion, Michigan by Raymond LuczakBooks rarely surprise me, but this one definitely did. I expected some little hokey story about living in Michigan, but Compassion, Michigan: The Ironwood Stories by Raymond Luczak is surprisingly rich, insightful, and beautifully written, something I’d gladly have read in a college literature class.The book as a whole is a collection of short stories centered on one region of Michigan in the upper peninsula.

The atmosphere in the stories has the gritty feel of a Michigan town and a Midwest mindset, with a sense of itself and understanding of people and place that is truly a joy to read.

All the characters and stories have distinct voices and tones, so it’s not just a thinly veiled version of the author’s experiences, but rather a panoply of voices and stories.

As I said, few books surprise me, but this one genuinely did, in its depth, breadth, and quality. I’m far from an expert on Michigan authors, but I would argue for this one to be among the best, easily fitting in with Hemingway’s early The Nick Adams Stories, which take place in Michigan.

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Compassion, Michigan [HC]

SKU 978-1-61599-528-8
The Ironwood Stories
In stock
Product Details

Encompassing some 130 years in Ironwood's history, Compassion, Michigan illuminates characters struggling to adapt to their circumstances starting in the present day, with its subsequent stories rolling back in time to when Ironwood was first founded. What does it mean to live in a small town--so laden with its glory day reminiscences--against the stark economic realities of today? Doesn't history matter anymore? Could we still have compassion for others who don't share our views?

A Deaf woman, born into a large, hearing family, looks back on her turbulent relationship with her younger, hearing sister. A gas station clerk reflects on Stella Draper, the woman who ran an ice cream parlor only to kill herself on her 33rd birthday. A devout mother has a crisis of faith when her son admits that their priest molested him. A bank teller, married to a soldier convicted of treason during the Korean War, gradually falls for a cafeteria worker. A young transgender man, with a knack for tailoring menswear, escapes his wealthy Detroit background for a chance to live truly as himself in Ironwood. When a handsome single man is attracted to her, a popular schoolteacher enters into a marriage of convenience only to wonder if she's made the right decision.

RAYMOND LUCZAK, a Yooper native, is the author and editor of 24 books, including Flannelwood. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"These are stories of extremely real women, mostly disappointed by life, living meagerly in a depleted town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Sound depressing? Not at all. Luczak has tracked their hopes, their repressed desires, and their ambitions with the elegance and precision of one of those silhouette artists who used to snip out perfect likenesses in black paper; people 'comforted by the familiarity of loneliness,' as he writes."ť --EDMUND WHITE, author of A Saint in Texas

Learn more at www.raymondluczak.com

From Modern History Press www.ModernHistoryPress.com

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